from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 13 August 2012

clad in rainbows

I'd love to punctuate screeds of text with some photos, especially of the waterlily pond. I've had an endless saga of mobile-phone trouble though – in fact all my electronic means of communication have given me some trouble lately – and I don't know on this new-old Nokia how to, or if I can at all, download photos to my laptop.

So here's the scene for you: basically I'm going to have another go at this doing-nothing (il bel far niente) business. Dog and I are strolling along the edge of the pond. It's mid-afternoon and right now sunny. The farmer's just been and turned yesterday's haycut – let's hope the dry weather (intensely hot when the sun comes out) lasts a day or two longer. My feet are bare and I'm watching out for the big ants in the long grass. I think they're wood-ants, the ones making the huge cairn-like mounds in the woods, but as I didn't have my reading glasses, I couldn't see whether they were in fact flying ants, which bite.

As I approach the waterfall pool I notice the heron, who visits there a lot. It's utterly motionless: so transfixed on watching the water it doesn't even notice me. I freeze, and get a good view of it for minutes, close up. My friend Kenneth calls them  Presbyterian ministers. To me they look prehistoric, pterodactylic (sounds like a weird poetry form; must find out what 'dactyl'* means). Eventually, of course, it sees me, and achieves lift-off.

I step barefoot across the lip of the waterfall and round to the deck, where there's a weathered old wooden lounger chair. The dog settles in the shade by the water.

And yes, I can drop into this quiet again, no agenda. There's the moorhen, doing his or her thing in the rafts of lilies. Behind me a couple of squirrels are having a (noisy) standoff. Big fish jumping in front. And today shoals of electric blue damselflies, like little LED lights, skating just above the meniscus. 20, 30 of them.

It occurs to me that maybe the heron didn't see me because I was wearing a blue dress against a backdrop of blue sky. I'm wondering whether the damsels' blue is adaptive camouflage – maybe the fish can't see them against the sky?

I move lazily in and out of doing nothing, really, not even thinking, and musing idly on this business of colour and attraction or camouflage. Flowers are coloured because that way they attract bees and butterflies, I believe. But this blue thing – I wonder about kingfishers. Are they that beautiful flame-colour below and azure-sky-blue above to fool the fish into thinking they're either more (peaty) water, or pieces of sky? And what, then, of the male stickleback, almost identically coloured to a kingfisher? It's perhaps partly to attract a mate, in the way that so many males in the bird kingdom are brightly-coloured. (I then realise I'm not sure whether the female stickleback is also bright.) But is it partly too camouflage, like the kingfisher, though this time against predators such as pike-fish, who will confuse it with water/sky?

So long ago, those childhood days, standing up to my knees in the Vellator streams catching sticklebacks with my dad, to take home and put into our aquarium. Little pieces of light. Did you know that the male stickleback, rather like the nurturing male seahorse, guards the eggs in his mouth until they've hatched?

And who was the artist who coated the floor of an aquarium with tiny shards of semi-precious stones and scraps of silver, so that the caddis flies (are they dragonfly larvae?) who make their temporary larval 'shell' from fragments from the streambed, would be clad in rainbows?


* something to do with three-toed**. Pterodactyl: toes-on-wings, ish...

** take two. Ooops. (TM was scathing.) Perhaps all you Greek scholars out there also know it should be three-FINGERED. Three-toes is sloths.

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